Not long ago, we lamented the recent dearth of celebrity drama — no sex scandals, no crashing cars into innocent curbs, no tragic celebutantes forced to cut out their hair extensions whilst in the slammer. Well, apparently, that’s because everything juicy has been happening on the sly. You’d think that our national legion of fame whores would be allergic to putting even a toe in the shadows, but the number of covert marriages being unearthed lately — most recent: Claire Danes, of all people — indicates that hush-hush is a hotter trend even than rompers and sheer skirts. Secret weddings officially are the new DUIs: Suddenly, everyone in Hollywood seems to be getting one.
Unlike driving around smashed out of your gourd, however, there are actual advantages to a secret wedding. For people like us who subsist on Hollywood dirt, a subversive union feeds the beast: There’s something inherently, deliciously soapy in a furtive rendezvous at the chapel — a wanton impulsiveness that can make even the most boring celebrity seem fascinating. Admit it, nothing about Fringe’s Anna Torv leaped out at you until it was revealed that she quietly got hitched to her co-star Mark Valley after a whirlwind romance that no one even knew was happening. We can’t name a single song of Christina Milian’s, but we’re itching for details of her recent Las Vegas elopement with the Dream. And Emmy Rossum just seemed like a run-of-the-mill goody two-shoes with enviably porcelain skin; finding out she’s had a secret spouse this whole time adds a layer of campy rebelliousness to her doll-like veneer. The fact that we only learned about it because he’s filed for divorce, though tragic for the institution of marriage and whatnot, only fuels this — not only did she hide a husband from us, but she went through an entire tabloid news cycle’s worth of internal drama without her mascara ever looking out of place. Lindsay Lohan can’t even do that on your average Tuesday. Maybe Rossum can act.
For the celebrity, the benefits of a secret wedding — aside from its general lack of mug shot — are many; in fact, it’s a win-win. There’s all the buzz of a juicy scandal, without any actual sordidness or pants full of drugs. Unlike the very recent and not-at-all secret wedding of Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom, no one will whisper that you secret-married someone for press, or money, or a bitchin’ and completely paid-for finale for your reality show. Most people will assume that without an attendant PR firestorm, you secret-married your spouse for, gasp, love. And it represents a chance for a celeb to keep part of his or her life, however temporarily, away from scrutiny, ideally until such time as it’s safely interesting (read: it’s been a while and you’re clearly not just knocked up) to the aforementioned gossip junkies.
That’s actually the Catch-22 of the secret celebrity wedding: It works best when the secret is tastefully leaked. In order to reap the benefits of being a private person, you have to tell everyone how private you are — after all, what’s the point of beating the tabloids if you can’t then flaunt your stealthily obtained marriage license in their faces? And of course, you understand this means that the earnest and often genuinely romantic motivation behind this new trend will inevitably be bastardized by press hogs craving the attention they’ll get by bragging about how they escaped attention (we know, our brains just collapsed on themselves, too). Still, we’ll enjoy it while we can, if only because for one brief, shining moment, it’s just nice to believe there is some unscripted romance in Hollywood that doesn’t involve Bret Michaels and his Rock of Love bus. Although God knows we have room in our hearts for that, too.